COMMENTARY | A decade ago, Annika Sorenstam stood on the 10th tee at Colonial C.C., about to hit an historic tee shot.
She hit her 4-wood down the chute before smiling and feigning a pair of buckling knees under the pressure of being the first woman to tee it up on the PGA Tour in 58 years.
Sorenstam didn't make the cut that week at Ben Hogan's tournament, but she did represent herself well in two rounds at his Alley. She shot 5 over par (71-74), beating 13 players in the field, 11 that finished 36 holes.
In the remaining 104 tournaments of her LPGA Tour career that followed those two days at Colonial, Sorenstam missed the cut just once. Once. But it is arguably her missed cut in Ft. Worth, Texas, that is the most important in her career.
As she said that week, Colonial was a chance to test herself against the best players in the world. It wasn't a statement about taking on male golfers, gender equality or anything of the sort. Annika got her one-time answer in taking on the men. She could hang around, teeter on the cut line and give herself a chance to compete. With more cracks at it, she might even be able to prosper.
Would she ever be able to dominate on the PGA Tour like she did with her female cohorts? No. But that wasn't the point.
Sorenstam stepped away, in her words, from competition a little over five years after that week at Colonial, but that Thursday-Friday in May 2003 was the week that defined the Annika Sorenstam brand.
That week may have influenced her two greatest seasons which immediately followed. The University of Arizona product would win 18 LPGA Tour titles in 2004 and '05, including three of her 10 major titles. In her final three years, Sorenstam would log 11 more LPGA wins and three more majors.
The pressure -- self-imposed and externally applied -- Sorenstam felt, embraced and dealt with at Colonial allowed the Swede to ratchet up her LPGA domination to another level. It made her show a side of herself the public rarely saw, and the public liked it.
The experience also proved to her something every superior athlete sometimes needs to know.
"That I love what I do," she said.
A passion. A passion for winning, being the best she can be. After she retired in 2008, Sorenstam again followed her passion into business. She started an academy in Florida, a wine label and a clothing label, maintains a foundation, and runs a financial group in addition to a course design business. And, yes, she's a mother of two.
Sorenstam is so busy following her passions that she cannot yet take the captain's role for the European Solheim Cup team. It's hers when she wants it.
At Colonial, Sorenstam wept tears of joy after playing because she was doing what she wanted to do. The week at Colonial is one that anchors her approach to the world: Take a risk and, win or lose, learn as much as you can from it to get better.
After she missed the cut at Colonial 10 years ago, Sorenstam was asked if another woman should be allowed to play the PGA Tour in 2013 -- if she could hang with the boys.
"If she qualifies, yes," Sorenstam said.
That "she" does not yet exist right now, which is why what Sorenstam did for two days at Colonial grows in importance with each passing year. She didn't reach the peak of her personal Everest, as she described it, but she planted a stake with her expedition that may never be passed.
"I've climbed as high as I can. And it's worth every step of it," Sorenstam said in 2003. "And like I said, I won't do this again, but I will always remember it."
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Follow him on Twitter @RyanBallengee.
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